The 2nd Anniversary of the Nigerian Proclamation was on Friday May 29th. That day was also a holiday in Nigeria set aside to celebrate the transition to democracy and on that day in 2007, current President Yar'Adua was inaugurated. In 2007, bloggers reacted to the unsatisfactory elections by sharing the Nigerian Proclamation online. Considering that the general and Presidential elections of 2007 were rife with violence and irregularities, there is definitely room for improvement on the quest to a free and fair democratic system. It is also hard to ignore that the most recent elections in Ekiti State reflected a harsh reality - that fair and peaceful democratic elections are still the exception to the norm.
MAINTAINING THE CHAOTIC STATUS QUO
What is clearly the norm is that Nigeria's government and connected elite ensure that the people live in utter chaos so as to deny them the opportunity to think of ways to change their situation. Chaos prevents progress, thus, an individual focused on finding food will not have the luxury to spend time thinking of how to improve his/her situation. All efforts and energies will be spent on satisfying hunger. Likewise, an individual that does not have constant/regular electricity cannot watch the local or international news and will know little of the happenings in his/her own country. How can such a person constructively participate in civil society and or effectively contribute to change when they have inadequate information?. By depriving the people of basic necessities available in most modern societies - electricity, adequate health care (where citizens do not have to fly abroad for care), simple structures that protect the interests of the people and allow for progress and change - the Nigerian government and the super elites maintain a status quo that is detrimental to the majority of the people.
It is not hard to see how this unfortunate chaos is exemplified in Nigeria. Consider the nation's electricity problems. It is well known that certain individuals have become billionaires by taking advantage of and even encouraging or guaranteeing the non-existent state of electricity in the country. Because there is hardly any reliable electricity supply, Nigerians buy generators which are predominantly powered by diesel. Those businessmen and women who supply diesel benefit from the chaotic electricity situation and without adequate regulation, they are in a position to ensure that their income stream does not dry up. That means continued interruptions in electricity supply to make sure demand for their product increases. Consequently, a small group makes a financial windfall off the suffering of the majority. It might seem like basic capitalistic economics, but in a country where politicians are not accountable to the constituents, such a reality - capitalist or not - fosters corruption, limits the democratic right of the people to determine their future and keeps the nation, save for those fortunate enough to afford generators and the fuels that power them, in darkness.
So, on this, the 2nd anniversary of the Nigerian Proclamation, one cannot help but remember when the simple, but concerted act, of putting up a message on websites, was a way to address the complicated issues of Nigeria and its situation. The question at this point is what factors will break the stranglehold of those who maintain and benefit from the current status quo so as to give ordinary Nigerians a chance to flourish in a country that provides at least the basic necessities of the 21st century.
In addition to the obvious - remedying the nation's electricity, infrastructure and health deficits, a growing middle and upper class will be essential to transforming Nigeria. However, if those who gain financial and career success do not engage in civic and political issues, but align themselves, as is currently the case, with those who maintain the status quo, nothing will change. Additionally, true electoral reform is necessary to create a democratic system where people believe that their peaceful vote and participation in politics can make a meaningful difference. This will not only help to tranform the nation's image abroad, it will equally change the way Nigerians see themselves. There are so many ways, big and small, that Nigeria can become a better nation, and it all depends not on the government, but on the individuals and the choices they make.
THE FUTURE DEPENDS ON IT
While many assert that for positive change to take place, Nigeria's political elite must first change themselves, the unfortunate reality is that these individuals and groups have no reason to change their modus operandi and as such, any tactic that waits on them for progress will likely fail. As such, average Nigerians must continue to do the little they can to make their lives, and the lives of those around them, better. They must do this independent of the government and the cohorts of those who control Nigeria. If not, the chaotic standards that many Nigerians have become accustomed to will simply continue and they will stall any meaningful progress. If that is the case, Nigeria's children will inherit an inherently chaotic country where things fail to function normally and that will sideline them from becoming competitive members of the highly intersected, global community. Hopefully, chaos will not be the legacy passed on to future generations.
UPDATE: Please read Imnakoya's post on how Nigeria can get to free and fair elections. It makes for very insightful reading.
- The Nigerian Proclamation
- Epilogue: The Proclamation
- Nigerian Proclamation on BBC
- The Nigerian Proclamation: Making A Statement
- The Nigerian Proclamation: One Year
- 2 Years Later: Nigerian Proclamation